Gabriels' Jacob Lusk: Five Essential Albums

Gabriels, l-to-r: Ari Balouzia, Ryan Hope and Jacob Lusk (photo by Julian Broad, PR)
by Kara Manning | 02/17/2022 | 12:00am

Gabriels, l-to-r: Ari Balouzia, Ryan Hope and Jacob Lusk (photo by Julian Broad, PR)

As FUV honors music pioneers over the next month, we also reached out to a new generation of rising artists and innovators to discuss the "Five Essential Albums" that have guided them creatively and personally.

Elton John gave Gabriels the ultimate shout-out last year, calling the debut EP from the Los Angeles trio, 2020's Love and Hate in a Different Time, "probably one of the most seminal records I've heard in the last ten years."  The British superstar gushed that praise directly to the delighted trio in a tweeted video chat: tenor Jacob Lusk and producers Ryan Hope and Ari Balouzian. That enthusiastic endorsement from rock royalty plus rave reviews, soul-stirring sold-out tours, and high-profile gigs on "Jimmy Kimmel Live!" and the BBC's "Later ... with Jools Holland" has fast-tracked Gabriels' heady ascent. In December, the group, now signed to Elektra, released a new EP, Bloodline, which again shows off their skill for timeless tracks of heart-lifting, heavenly soul, gospel, and R&B.

Lusk, a gospel maestro, choir leader, and a 2011 American Idol alumnus (he placed fifth), has an airy, wistful falsetto that fluidly swoops and soars like a murmuration of swallows — and he's a mesmerising live performer too, alternately commanding and irresistibly upbeat. On Gabriels' "Blame," from the new EP, or their breakout single, "Love and Hate in a Different Time," the band's songs are achingly familiar, like the best Al Green song you've never heard. But Gabriels skirt nostalgia, amping their songs with a slow-burning, subliminal tension that perfectly mirrors this restless moment in time.

Yet Compton-born Lusk is keenly aware of his forebears — and his FUV "Five Essential Albums" reflects those many influences heard in his magnificent voice, from Aretha Franklin's gospel grit to Sylvester's willowy croon:

Gabriels' Jacob Lusk: Five Essential Albums:

Aretha Franklin, Lady Soul
Aretha, the undisputed queen of soul! No Gabriels list would be complete without Aretha Franklin. Her debut album on Atlantic Records was a departure from the jazz records and covers she’d done in the past. Some say she found her magic. One of my favorite albums of all time, and includes the song "Respect!"

Marvin Gaye, What’s Going On
Marvin moved away from the sweet-soul love songs of the 1960s, and took other Motown artists along with him, as he made contemporary statements about the sociopolitical problems of the day in a spiritually poetic way. This album can be seen as a benchmark that helped artists ask questions, with their music and lyrics, about the world around them.

Tina Turner, Private Dancer
Private Dancer was the mark of a whole new era in music. Tina churned out a new sound that was uniquely her own. At 45 years old in 1984, when most careers have waned, the Queen of Rock and Roll hit a whole new level. The album became one of her biggest hits, featuring classics like “What’s Love Got To Do With It?'' and “Private Dancer," the album’s title track. Private Dancer was promoted by a 177-date worldwide tour.

Sylvester, Living Proof
Sylvester, a ceiling-and-barrier breaker in every sense. Black, tall, openly gay, and androgynous, he didn’t conform to any social normative, and this album is no departure from that. Recorded live at War Memorial Opera house in San Francisco, with the Weather Girls and Jeanie Tracy on background vocals, the album featured cult hits “You Make Me Feel (Mighty Real)” and “You Are My Friend." Sylvester was also an activist, who campaigned against the spread of HIV and AIDS. He was also one of the first celebs to discuss his HIV status publicly. He succumbed to complications from the virus in 1988. His royalties still fund San Francisco-based HIV/AIDS charities to this day.

Nina Simone, Nina Simone In Concert
Nina is undoubtedly one the greatest songwriters and artists of all time. A trained classical pianist, her music spanned genres. This live album spawned the beginning of Civil Rights-themed music and performances, in a time when the lynching of people of color was commonplace. The album featured songs like “I Loves You, Porgy” from the [George and Ira Gershwin/DuBose Heyward] opera, Porgy and Bess, and “Mississippi Goddam,” a song said to be her response to the murders of Emmett Till and Medgar Evers.

- Jacob Lusk of Gabriels
February 2022

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